Recombinant Proteins and Their Applications

Proteins are large and complex molecules composed of hundreds or thousands of amino acids. They play important roles in many critical body processes and are required for the function, structure, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.

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Antibodies, enzymes, transport molecules, chemical messengers, storage molecules, and many other essential molecules are all proteins. Due to their importance in human bodies, it is unsurprising that researchers have developed synthetic proteins to perform many different applications. One such protein created by humans is the recombinant protein. 

Native Proteins Versus Recombinant Proteins 

Proteins in their natural state are considered native proteins. They are folded in their functional form and can accomplish a specific task. Native proteins have not been altered by a denaturing agent, such as a chemical, heat, or an enzyme’s action. 

Recombinant proteins, however, have been altered. They are created by transfecting foreign genes into a host cell to fuse DNA sequences not normally present in the host organism’s DNA. This is possible because different organisms share the same DNA structure. Once the recombinant DNA is in the host DNA, it can be replicated when cells divide, or it can be transcribed and translated into a recombinant protein. These recombinant proteins contain more amino acids than native proteins because they contain information coded in the added DNA sequence. 

Why Create Recombinant Proteins?

Native proteins created by the body have many biochemical applications; however, recombinant proteins have significant use specifically within proteomics. Here are a few reasons why recombinant proteins may be the preferred type of protein when it comes to proteomics:

  • The amino acid sequence of recombinant proteins can be easily altered. Mutated, truncated, or elongated proteins of interest can be created, as can chimeric proteins or proteins with improved or altered function. 
  • The volume of recombinant protein can be controlled. Some assays require milligrams or even multiple grams of purified protein, which can be prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain. 
  • Not all applications require an active or properly folded protein. In these instances, producing recombinant proteins is cheaper and more economical than going through the time and expense required to purify native proteins.
  • Recombinant proteins do not require Institutional Review Board approval. Human volunteers are required to acquire native proteins, and IRB approval is required for human participants. This is not true for recombinant proteins. 

Recombinant Protein Applications

The benefits of recombinant proteins allow them to have many applications in the research, medicine, and biotechnology fields.  

  • Research

There are many applications for recombinant proteins in the field of research.. They are useful in antibody production, western blot controls, ELISA standards, and aptamer development. They also have uses in determining protein structure and protein interactions with DNA, other proteins, or small molecules. 

  • Medicine

Since proteins are so abundant in many essential body processes, the dysfunction of proteins plays a part in many types of diseases. Therapeutic proteins are treatments for several diseases, like cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, and hemophilia. Recombinant proteins have an important role in the therapeutic medicines market. 

  • Biotechnology

Recombinant proteins have branched out of the medical market with applications in bioengineering, food production, and agriculture. For example, an animal feed can be supplemented with enzymes to improve the nutritional value of the feed, enhance animal performance, and reduce feed and waste management costs. Recombinant proteins can also be added to plants to increase productivity and yield. 

Recombinant Protein Summary

Though native proteins have their place in biological processes and other fields, recombinant proteins fill many areas where native proteins are not the most useful or best option. There are major differences between native and recombinant proteins, but both are vital in multiple industries for different reasons. Recombinant proteins have a significant impact on the research, medicine, and biotechnology industries. 

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